12/5/2018 1:39:00 PM Robinson men help bring clean water to Africa
Robert Quick, Dave Fulling and team members Ed Hoke and Josh Hathy pose next to the Welcome to Zambia sign during their Marion Medical Mission trip to install new wells in rural village locations. The four Southern Illinoisans helped to install over 80 wells during their three week trip. Below is an open pit where many local African villagers get their water, often having to walk several miles just for a bucket full of the contaminated water. The purpose of the trip was to replace these pits with clean safe water wells. (Submitted photos)
Two Robinson men helped bring safe clean drinking water to thousands in Africa.
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is over and we have a couple weeks until Christmas, take a moment and think about how much water each of us consumes in a day. According to the United States Geological Service, the average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons, this includes bathing, showering and other hygiene practices, dish washing, clothes washing, toilet flushing, and drinking.
Now imagine having to walk six kilometers or 3 and a half miles just to get five gallons of water out of a hole in the ground.
This past October, David Fulling and Robert Quick spent three weeks on the eastern side of Southern Africa bring safe clean drinking water to remote villages.
In 2016, Fulling ventured to Africa on a Marion Medical Mission to help dig wells and install hand pumps in remote areas where native villagers get there water from pits or holes in the ground that are often contaminated and shared with wild animals and livestock.
After hearing Fulling speak about his first trip, Quick told Fulling to let him know the next time he went. When Fulling said he was going again, Quick said he wanted to go.
"There were a lot of excuses not to go, but a confluence of things disappeared and it worked out," said Quick.
"The Lord opened a door for you to go through," said Fulling.
Over the course of three weeks, Fulling and Quick helped to finish and dedicate nearly 80 wells that will directly effect the lives of around 12,000 people.
Each well serves around 150 people in an area. Fulling said they dedicated 78 wells. "We did not really feel like missionaries, but it was explained that we were being the hands and feet of God by building wells," he said. "That is how many lives we touched."
Marion Medical Mission, of Marion, Ill., (MMM) was started in 1985 as a mission to help doctors in Africa. They learned that many of the illnesses could be prevented with clean safe drinking water, so the mission changed to doing just that. To date over 32,000 wells have been dug and continue to be maintained, with over 2,900 new wells installed this year.
An MMM well is organized and placed by local teams, through donations and the help of American volunteers. They dig six foot diameter holes, 10 to 30 feet deep, and line them with bricks, either bought or made locally. The well is then capped, to prevent contamination, with concrete and the words "Glory to God" inscribed in English and the local African dialect.
The pumps are made from a collection of small galvanized and PVC fittings for easy transport and repair. Local villagers provide the bricks, gravel and unskilled (well diggers) labor. MMM provides the pump parts, cement, tools, transportation and skilled labor. Total cost is around $400 per well.
The experience starts about six months before the adventure said Fulling. Volunteers need to raise around $3,700 for a first time trip. "Around $1,800 of that is for the plane ticket, insurance and medical shots," said Fulling. "The rest is expense money for food, water and other necessities."
Fulling is quick to point out that he did not pay the full amount himself, he received donations from local churches and individuals who wanted to contribute.
Money for food is important, explained Fulling, "You have to feed your help, otherwise you are eating in front of them."
Fortunately things are cheap by American standards. "A dozen bread rolls were 50 cents," said Quick. The exchange rate was around 12 of their dollars to 1 of ours. One problem they did have was the banks issued crisp new $100 value notes and no one had change.
They often bought out bottled water supplies and extra items at local stores.
To illustrate how financially poor the villages were, Quick bought a traditional working ax at the local market for the equivalent of $3 American. A local village may have to save for a long time to purchase one, and may only have two or three in a village that are shared.
A similar hoe tool is also their primary farming implement. "They make hills in neat rows for planting," said Fulling.
One of the first things volunteers are told is that it is not safe to eat or drink anything that you do not peal or break open. Any water that is drank must be boiled first. Sterilizing pens are also used along with boiling, but the water is often not filtered and may have little chunks of stuff and you don't want to know what it is, said Fulling.
"As a Boy Scout, I am always interested in local fruits," said Quick. "Over there it is only safe to eat if you can peal or break it open to eat, without boiling."
Quick also pointed out that the staples of the locals diet was rice, koki cakes made from cornmeal and water, and casaba roots, all of which have little to no flavor. "I took a camping spice kit, and was very popular," said Quick. "We ate a lot of peanut butter."
Something else Quick had with him earned him the nick name Magic Man. "We had to light fires for bending pipe," said Quick. "We had matches, but I had a lighter and used it one time to light a fire and none of the locals saw how I did it. They wanted to see the magic again. Keep in mind this is a place were they still have witch doctors."
While well received by most villages and headmen, villagers were suspicious of outsiders wanting to give them something for free, especially something large like a well. Fulling said you could tell that some had never seen a white person before.
They were very grateful though said Quick. "One woman fell to her knees to give thanks. She explained, much to her daughter's embarrassment, that her daughter would no longer loose children because of the bad water."
Fulling said very few of the children make it to the age of two.
At one village Quick met the headman or village elder. "He was younger than me. Then I noticed there were no elderly people in the village," said Quick. "We learned that the creek where the villagers got their water was down stream from an old copper mine and was full of toxins. That is when it really hit me, they did not live long enough to get old."
As a gesture of gratitude villagers would present them with gifts. "It would be an insult to reject a gift," said Fulling. "We received a lot of chickens and eggs, which were given to the local workers or the Presbyterian Church in the area."
There were many subtle differences that Quick noticed during his trip. Chickens had longer legs to run from predators. The wealth class system went from owning a car and driving, to bicycle, to walking. Middle class bicyclists used them like trucks or carts to hall large quantities of goods.
Work days started at 4:30 a.m. with the Muslim call to worship and ended at dark. Travel after dark was not safe for many reasons.
Fulling said they worked right up until the day they came home, and even then they were not sure they would make it as Quick got stopped at customs, not for his ax, but a small carved wooden elephant. "Through the scanner it could have been made of ivory, and because of poaching there is ban on ivory."
Both Fulling and Quick have a great many stories to share about their adventure and the impact it had on their lives. For Fulling the real impact of building a well, was not just about the fresh water but creating time that is not used for just living and existing, but could now be used for work, education and family to make their lives better.
Both Fulling and Quick are willing to share information about their trip with local groups, churches or organization.
To learn more about Marion Medical Missions go to mmm.water.org.